Early Description of Mound City in Chillocthe, Ohio

Early Description of Mound City in Chillocthe, Ohio


American Anthropologist 1922
Their summary description of the group, from Ancient Monu- 
ments of the Mississippi Valley (Smithsonian Institution, 1848) 
is as follows: 

Situated on the left bank of the Scioto River, four miles north of the 
town of Chillicothe. The enclosure, designated from the great number of 
mounds within its walls, "Mound City,** is in many respects the most 
remarkable in the Scioto Valley. Through the generous kindness of Henry 
Shriver, Esq., upon whose estate it is situated, the mounds were all permitted 
to be investigated; and the work will, in consequence, be often referred to 
in the course of this volume, particularly when we come to speak 
of "mounds.*' 

Early photo of the burial mounds at Mound City before they were levelled. The reconstructed mounds today are only a fraction of their original size.
In outline it is nearly square, with rounded angles, and consists of a 
simple embankment, between three and four feet high, unaccompanied by 
a ditch. Its site is the beautiful level of the second terrace, and it is still 
covered with the primitive forest. 

The first and most striking feature in connection with this work is the 
unusual number of mounds which it contains. There are no less than twenty- 
four within its walls. All of these, as above observed, have been excavated, 
and the principal ones found to contain altars and other remains, which put 
it beyond question that they were places of sacrifice^ or of superstitious 
origin. 

These mounds seem placed generally without design in respect to each 
other, although there is a manifest dependence between those composing 
the central group, and between those numbered 4 and 5 and 12 and 13. 
From the principal mound numbered 7 in the plan, after the fall of the 
leaves, a full view of every part of the work and of its enclosed mounds is 
commanded. This mound is seventeen feet high with a broad base nearly 
one hundred feet in diameter. The long mound. No. 3, is one hundred and 
forty feet long by eighty wide at the base, and ten feet in average height. 
Broad and deep pits, from which the earth for the construction of the mounds 
was taken, surround the work. 

Recent Aspects or the Group 

At the time of the final exploration of Mound City, described 
in this report, the entire site was occupied by the United States 
army cantonment, Camp Sherman. Fig. 28 gives a view of it 
before this change had taken place. Incident to the construction 
of this great camp, the grading of streets and drilling-grounds and 
the erection of barracks and other buildings resulted in unavoid- 
able disturbance of the group. In a number of instances mounds 
were completely removed, the earth composing them being used 
for grading and filling and any specimens they may have con- 
tained thus lost, or scattered among workmen. Others of the 
mounds fared less disastrously, being disturbed in part only, 
while one at least — the great central mound of the group — 
suffered no damage whatever. 

Of the total of twenty-four mounds recorded by Squier and 
Davis, in the above description, only twelve — one-half the 
original number — could be located or identified by the present 
survey. Several of the smaller ones, it is known, had completely 
disappeared under many years of cultivation of the land, while 
the remainder had been obliterated in the construction of the 
cantonment. What these mounds may have contained in the 


Fig. 28.— View of Mound City Group before it was taken over by the U. S. Government. way of material evidence of their builders will never be known, and the only record of their existence is that of Squier and Davis. Mounds of which no trace remained are those numbered on their map as follows: 1, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, and 22. The condition of the mounds remaining for final exploration was as follows: Mound No. 2, practically one-half entirely obliter- ated, the remaining portion being graded off to within 6 inches of its base; No. 3, the elongate mound of the central unit, disturbed by extensive ramifications of the camp plumbing system; Mound No. 7, intact, its removal having been forestalled by special intervention of the camp commander, at the solicitation of the Museum authorities; Mound No. 8, one-third graded off, to with- in a few inches of the base; Mounds Nos. 9 and 12, much dis- turbed by trenching for plumbing system; Mound No. 13, a part of one side graded off, disturbing the most important burial thereof; Mounds 15 and 17, very small structures, more or less disturbed by grading; Mound No. 18, about one-half graded down, but a considerable depth of soil left above the base; Mound No. 21, very low, slightly disturbed; and Mound No. 23, fully two-thirds removed, with no trace of floor remaining.